The Empire Strikes A Deal: 10 Years Of EA Star Wars Games

By Alec Meer on November 21st, 2013 at 8:00 am.

metaphor?

Unless JJ Abrams does something so spectacular and most of all so charming with his Star Wars sequels that my 15 years of ennui towards the house that Lucas built then liberally daubed with some sort of turd-based paint, I can’t say I have any particular issue with EA being sole providers of Galaxy Far, Far Away games for the next decade. There’s plenty of other science-fiction, you know, though in fairness not much of it is afforded the same kind of budget as Star Wars stuff enjoys. But if you were holding out hope for an Obsidian-developed Knights of the Old Republic 3, or fun little experiments from random indie chancers, you probably shouldn’t, given the 10 year deal between EA and Disney likely covers the full span of Episodes VII-IX and thus is likely to be very focused on whatever they do.

The EA-Disney deal for Star Wars games entails “games in many different genres across multiple types of platforms over 10 years”, the only planned fruit of which we know about so far is the DICE-developed shooty-bang Battlefront-style game, teased earlier this year:

Oh, and EA are continuing work on disastrous MMO The Old Republic, which is the point where I question quite why Disney would give EA the keys to their most lucrative castle for quite so long.

EA claim the WoW-aping squib is now profitable however, though continue to blame its poor reception on a dimished appetite for MMOs rather than on, y’know, it being deeply tedious. “Yes the original expectations obviously were very, very large,” CFO Blake Jorgensen said at a People With Lots of Money Conference recently (as reported by Eurogamer) “and obviously the multiplayer MMO world has – the popularly has come down over time and we tried to restructure the Star Wars business to better match the economics. It’s a great business that’s very repeatable. We brought the economics in line so it’s a profitable business for us.”

They also hint that the MMO might get a shot in the arm as Disney steps up its Star Wars funding’n'marketing game. However, the other Star Wars games they’re planning “won’t necessarily be aligned with the movie.” Hopefully that means no quickly-made, dispiriting tie-in, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

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107 Comments »

  1. Arcanon says:

    Well that’s a damn disappointment…I can’t wait for battlefront, but I’d rather see another Obsidian Star Wars game :(

    • Kadayi says:

      As a backer of Project Eternity I’d rather Obsidian carry on developing their own inhouse IPs personally. Licensed titles invariably involve creative compromises, and as we’re talking Disney here, that’s going to be considerable.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        I could just be entirely ignorant here, but what kind of ‘creative compromises’ did Obsidian make with KOTOR2? As far as I was aware they were pretty much given free reign over a part of the Star Wars timeline that was almost a blank slate?

        • Cinek says:

          That was long ago, before Disney came in. Noone will give them such freedom any more.

        • Ham Solo says:

          Aside from the fact that KOTOR 2 was missing half its planned content of course…

          • Cinek says:

            Not even close to half. And most of it was restored later on.

          • Stardreamer says:

            All of which reminds me that KOTOR 2 is still on my “Play to Finish” list. But having just started a run-through of a heavily-modded Terran Conflict, that may take some time to even get around to looking at.

            I’ll finish you one day, KOTOR 2. I promise.

          • Arcanon says:

            I got it for like 2€ on Steam, and then applied the Restored Content Mod.

            And wow. Just wow.

          • Kadayi says:

            ‘Not even close to half. And most of it was restored later on.’

            Kind of missing the point of my post. The fact that years after the fact some dedicated fans ‘fixed’ a broken game is hardly a positive.

          • Werthead says:

            Thanks to LucasArts, not Obsidian, yes. In fact, Obsidian stuck a load of the half-completed content files on the CD as they knew modders would be able to finish it off. Properly speaking, they shouldn’t really have done that, but they did so someone (not them, as LucasArts refused to let them do it) else could finish the missing bits after the fact.

      • Borsook says:

        Kotor 2 was incredibly rushed, full of bugs, missing content and other problems. Obsidian never managed to patched it properly. And it did nothing new compared to Kotor 1, honestly after Kotor 2 and Dungeon Siege 3 I avoid anything made by Obsidian.

        • TheTingler says:

          I’m about to commit a personal sin here by arguing with someone in a comments section, but all the technical problems with KOTOR2 including the lack of patch were all down to LucasArts changing the release date to pre-Xmas. As for “it didn’t do anything KOTOR1 didn’t” you clearly didn’t pay attention to the story, or characters. There’s a good reason a lot of people still regard it very highly.

          I’m not going to bother to argue about Dungeon Siege 3, but that you’d give up on a company because a couple of games dissatisfied you, well, that’s just petty. Then again, if you don’t care about plot or characters then you’re probably not going to like many Obsidian games.

        • Werthead says:

          LucasArts refused to allow Obsidian to patch it, though they offered. Obsidian also stuck loads of files on the CD-ROM so people could finish the bits they couldn’t, because of LucasArts being arsey about the whole situation.

      • Emeraude says:

        “Creative compromises”* can lead to greater, otherwise impossible, creations for some people though, and if anything Obsidian already proved it has the chops for it with KOTOR 2 (which actually made the Star wars universe interesting to me again).

        *:Constraints of all kind really – hence the oulipo.

    • welverin says:

      This deal does not preclude Obsidian from making another KotOR game, they’re an independent developer and could work with EA if they wanted to, the real issue is would EA want to fund such a game.

      I’d say it’s more likely to happen now than if Disney was handling Star Wars games themselves.

  2. SanguineAngel says:

    10 years is a considerable timeframe! It feels like we are in quite the changeable time as far as games development and publishing go – signing over such a massive franchise lock stock for so long to the very king of stuck in the mud seems like a decision that could haunt Disney

    • DonJefe says:

      EA are very good at closing those deals (See -> EA Sports games such as Madden, FIFA, NBA Live and so on). The trouble is that EA usually end up with such small profit margins that they don’t bother making much of an effort (See -> Any Madden game in the last ten years).

    • frightlever says:

      Disney makes their money creating movies and selling crap with pictures of the movie characters on it. When they bought Lucas out they closed down Lucasarts. That should tell you everything about how much they care about gaming, beyond the casual market.

      They’ve bought some of the biggest geek franchises in living memory with Marvel and Lucasfilm and they don’t make any games themselves aimed at the core market for those franchises. That’s just disappointingly short-sighted.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I was thinking this. Disney might not be so glad they signed the deal five years from now. This is especially true since good games considerably raise the value of your brand (compare the number of Planescape setting fans to Dark Sun setting fans; both were cool, one had a game).

      • Anders Wrist says:

        While I get the point you’re making, I just have to add that Dark Sun actually has at least two PC rpg’s to its name. While good, they’re not exactly in the Planescape: Torment league, and they are also a lot older, so it is likely a lot of people just don’t know they exist. I also personally prefer the Dark Sun setting to the Planescape one. ;)

      • Werthead says:

        In P&P terms, DARK SUN was the more successful brand: it got no less than three different campaign editions for two different editions of the game, the most recent being in 2011. PLANESCAPE had its original publishing period (1994-98) and then vanished altogether. Not only that, later editions of the game pretty much retconned the setting out of existence (Sigil aside). DARK SUN’ss novels also sold a lot more than any of the PLANESCAPE ones did.

        PLANESCAPE is brilliant, most certainly, but it was way too avant-garde for most D&D fans and it sold miserably (in fact, TSR kept it going a lot longer than they really should have done, simply because they loved making it). DARK SUN didn’t sell brilliantly either (at least compared to FORGOTTEN REALMS), but it did do a fair bit better.

  3. Arithon says:

    So, a decade of broken, buggy, rushed-to-market, DRM crippled, rinse-n-repeat, dumbed-down multi-platform Star Wars titles that’ll stop working when EA get bored and switch off the server-side element. Oh goody.
    Now I’m hugely optimistic that the worst company in America (voted three years in a row?) will deliver!

    • DonJefe says:

      They were “only” voted worst twice as far as I can see, but they may be going for a twelve year win streak with this Star Wars deal.

    • Leb says:

      to be fair, I doubt the big evil financial companies nominated on that poll have an army of angry geeks out to get them. With EA all it takes is /v/ and reddit/r/games to go ZOMG VOTE EA THE WURSTEST I HATE BF3.

      Essentially EA pisses off all the geeks and geeks rush to the vote.

      • Emeraude says:

        One thing though, is that I think the vote is well used in that it actually hurts the people working at EA, If only in their pride (if some past public reactions are to be believed). Which means that there *is* a chance, however tenuous, that it might lead to betterment.

        Companies like, say, Goldman Sachs, or Monsanto, while incredibly more deserving of the name/price, would just laugh it off.

    • Bo Steed says:

      “…as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror… and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

  4. Barberetti says:

    Oh well, there goes the chance of a decent Star Wars MMO being made in the next 10 years.

  5. Opiniomania says:

    hurray. more star wars games. hurray.

  6. MazokuRanma says:

    I don’t understand why there wouldn’t be a chance of an Obsidian developed KotOR 3. EA is a publisher, whereas Obsidian is a developer. It is almost certain that some of these games will be contracted to outside developers, and Obsidian could certainly be one of them. I know that interviews with people at Obsidian have indicated that they’d love to return to the universe, though, so a deal certainly isn’t impossible.

    • Leb says:

      As said above, I hope Obsidian sticks with their own (more interesting) IPs

    • TheTingler says:

      Agreed, although I think they’re going to get Bioware in on it first.

      • Werthead says:

        I don’t think BioWare have the capacity. Their MMO team are still working on THE OLD REPUBLIC and their two main teams are working on DRAGON AGE III and MASS EFFECT 4. Unless they’re going to do it after DA3 (ME4 I suspect is going to be the first in a new series), I don’t see them having the manpower to do a third game on top.

  7. Soulstrider says:

    Well I had fun with SWTOR, but then even after these years I actually never really got tired of the normal mmo mechanics so it may be that.

    • Serrit says:

      I got back on SW:TOR this month, and am thoroughly enjoying it – as a single-player RPG (playing the Agent story at the moment – top spy-stuff!). Just a shame the servers will eventually go down, and I’ll lose my characters :’(

  8. Keneb says:

    Does this mean that EA can let any studio that they publish for develop Star Wars games.
    Or to put it another way, does it mean Bioware could potentially do another one?

  9. ain says:

    RIP Star Wars 1977-2012

  10. theblazeuk says:

    Just give us what we want. X-Wing! Tie-Fighter! And an Elite style game where you can be Han Solo or Boba Fett (without being part of an MMO and it’s dullness).

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      Haha if only, we can only dream of such miniscule possibilities.

    • Cinek says:

      My guess? Arcade gamepad-oriented controls, 90% of interface in a web browser, multiplayer with servers going down after 2 years, at least 5 DLCs, DRM, half of the game interface on a smart phone, in-game unlocks grind, Beta release as a full version.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I think any Elite-like star wars game would need to include first or third person perambulation through the rich backdrops of the films and lore, particularly the various space ports, military outposts and cantinas that are most commonly associated with mercenary pilots for hire. It’d be a big game but done well could be spectacular.

      A straight X-Wing/Tie Fighter game would be amazing

      My basic rule of thumb for most star wars games is that the less force/lightsabers/jedis/sith the better

      • Arglebargle says:

        “My basic rule of thumb for most star wars games is that the less force/lightsabers/jedis/sith the better.”

        Good call!

      • Sharlie Shaplin says:

        That’s what I loved about the Xwing/Tie games. Just being an ordinary joe, caught up in significant events.

    • PikaBot says:

      Honestly, I’d settle for a GOG-style rerelease of those old games that actually works on new systems.

  11. Anthile says:

    Pray they don’t alter it any further.

  12. Cinek says:

    What kind of idiot signs 10 years exclusivity contracts these days? That’s ridiculous.
    Disney’s totally clueless.

    • Themadcow says:

      I agree, the largest media conglomorate in the world is totally clueless. Amateurs! Why on earth would they partner with the 2nd largest gaming company in the world that has been around for 30 years and operates on a sound financial footing? Fools!

      Whatever you think of EA (who I haven’t liked since the mid 90′s) or Disney (who I actually work with, and are a generally decent bunch of people) it’s hard to question that Disney have a habit of making the right business decisions…

      … with the exception of Disneyland Paris (which is a fairly big exception).

      • Cinek says:

        Ever heard of “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” basic rule of investment? Even more so if this basket is a company chosen the “Worst Company In America” title two years in a row? First one ever to achieve that in a history of this award?
        And then did you noticed how quickly gaming business evolves? Companies that are one of the richest now might be bankrupt in 5 years or so. And companies that are no-names right now might be the biggest of all in 5 years time?
        By a principle they never should have signed exclusivity with just one company.

        • Themadcow says:

          There are lots of corporate advantages to going with a solitary vendor, and as for companies going bankrupt – it tends not to happen to the bigger studio’s as it happens. EA is about as safe a pair of (clawed, black) hands as it gets in the industry – and like Disney, even when they make a big mistake it’s usually offset by profits from other products in their diverse portfolio.

          Look, I’m not saying that I want EA making Star Wars games – I don’t. I’m saying that someone on an online forum making grand statements about two of the biggest corporations in entertainment history making a simple business mistake…

          Nah.

          • The Random One says:

            Only Disney made a mistake. And as New Coke proves, big companies make big mistakes all the time.

            I mean, does anyone think gaming will be anything like it is now in ten years? The industry’s falling apart at the seams. Disney made a long bet here.

          • Nick says:

            Wait, one mistake proves big companies make them all the time? (and yes, I know there have been other mistakes, but all that proves is no one is infallible)

      • Loyal_Viggo says:

        The issue here boils down to Good vs. Evil

        The Forces of Good: Lucasfilm (and Lucasarts)

        The Forces of Evil: Disney & EA

        Seeing as Evil won round one and sucked the soul from Lucasfilm the near-universal consensus (from everyone except Disney) was that there would never be another good SW product again. And yet hope endured, nurtured in the darkest corners of the souls of all Star Wars fans the world over.

        Now that round two has been won by the Axis of Evil, Disney and EA, there really is no hope of ever seeing anything good in the SW IP again. Ever. Ever.

        The seeds of hope are extinguished on the alter of Greed, Horror and Mediocrity that is Disney and EA.

        • SRTie4k says:

          Lucasfilm and LucasArts stopped being “good” a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. They lost all of their creativity right around the time that the prequel movies came out, and LucasArts turned into another bland shovelware company with Star Wars branding.

          Frankly, after being let down by them for so long after the Golden Years and the Jedi Knight years, I will not miss them one bit.

          • TechnicalBen says:

            It’s almost as if they are living out the lives of the Jedi. ;)

            I’d hazard a guess at some point we find out EA is father to LucasArts…

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LucasArts#Simulation_games

            “Noooooooooooooo!”

          • McDLT says:

            I haven’t been excited about anything Star Wars related in over a decade. That well has run dry folks, stop looking for fool’s gold and move on. Star Wars games will all be optimized and streamlined for casuals. Indie games are your only hope for something original and challenging these days.

  13. Arglebargle says:

    On possible good side effect of the Star Citizen thing is that some other companies might decide there’s life in them there starships yet. It could even be Disney/EA/Starwars. They have to be impressed with a cash shop that’s selling digital goods for considerable amounts, years in advance.

  14. Caiman says:

    Fuck EA and Fuck Star Wars, a match made in heaven.

  15. Lemming says:

    I feel like if Obsidian had Eternity going a year earlier, they would’ve turned enough heads to get the Star Wars license, but then again, Obsidian aren’t nearly as big as EA, and Disney won’t want just one Star Wars RPG every four years.

    That being said, I’m very surprised Disney were daft enough to sign with a single studio. It should’ve just been on a per-pitch basis. Sure, I bet they got a great financial deal out of it, but in the long run, it doesn’t look likely to to do the brand much good.

    If this sort of thinking is behind the movies as well, I’ve not got my hopes up for those either.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      As far as I can tell, the way these business deals go on. The meeting follows like this:
      Director: “Who is the biggest company we know?”
      Staff: “EA.”
      Director: “Ok, give them the license.”
      Staff: “But can they make good games that sell well?”
      Director: “Who cares? The shareholders and traders will see the deal, shares will rise. The customers know the name, that’s all they care when buying…”

      :(

  16. bangalores says:

    “But if you were holding out hope for an Obsidian-developed Knights of the Old Republic…you probably shouldn’t, given the 10 year deal between EA and Disney likely covers the full span of Episodes VII-IX and thus is likely to be very focused on whatever they do.”

    The best star wars game ever (KOTOR) came out in the middle of the prequel trilogy in 2003, and it had absolutely NOTHING to do with those films.

  17. Bluerps says:

    I like Star Wars, but I haven’t been excited about a Star Wars game since 2005. So, for me, this changes nothing.
    But who knows, maybe they will actually do something great. That is always a (remote) possibility.

  18. pilouuuu says:

    Well, it’s a shame Disney is not creating good quality Marvel, Star Wars and Lucasarts franchise games.

    I’d love an Avengers game similar to Arkham City or a new Maniac Mansion. LEGO Marvel showed hints of how amazing that would be. Also, do they have the rights for Spiderman? Or that’s just Sony? Spidey was in LEGO, so… it’s confusing.

    Well, EA could create decent games if they go more on the Mass Effect instead of SW:TOR route. Actually a game just like Mass Effect on the Star Wars universe could be great!

    • RakeShark says:

      Conversely, it’s a blessing Disney isn’t creating horrid quality Marvel, Star Wars, and LucasArts franchise games.

  19. Loyal_Viggo says:

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

    That’s impossible!

  20. Janichsan says:

    What’s missing from this report is that EA won’t make movie tie-ins for the upcoming new trilogy.

    • Cinek says:

      We’ll see, we’ll see.
      It’s EA. They’re famous from money-grabbing.Most likely they’ll give license to some 3rd party to make that game and brand it.

  21. Jimbo says:

    Star Wars games get a bad rap I think. There have been plenty of bad SW games of course, but I’d say it’s had more than it’s share of decent to great ones over the years.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      They held a high standard in the Lucasfilm/LucasArts era before the wave of prequel cash-ins ruined everything. The ratio of good/bad SW games has improved but is still lower than before.
      EA has a lot to prove but we’ll see.

    • Perjoss says:

      Yes there are so many that are considered to be very good, Kotor 1 & 2, Jedi Knight 2, Republic Commando, X-Wing vs Tie Fighter and X-Wing Alliance, Empire at War. way back Shadows of the Empire was great on the N64 too.

      I quite enjoyed the Lego Star Wars games and I seem to remember one of the pod racer games being good fun also. And dont forget Kinect Star Wars (ok that last one is just a little joke, but I imagine it being a laugh if you play with mates and very drunk)

    • Turkey says:

      Star Wars games used to be good when the overall gaming industry was more creatively healthy and Lucas Arts marched to their own drum. I don’t think we’ll see anything like that happening again, though, unless big publishers start getting into middle-sized development again.

  22. SuicideKing says:

    Great. Now Battlefront 3 will be a DLC for Battlefield 3 Episode 3.

  23. aliksy says:

    But EA sucks, and everything they do picks up some of that suck. Oh well. I don’t really like star wars that much anyway. (It’s really not that great a setting for games, because jedis are typically on such a different power level than everyone else. Kind of like D&D fighter vs wizard, except the wizard is also a fighter too)

  24. mehteh says:

    Great, 10 years of shallow, boring console focus Star Wars games by EA.

  25. Stupoider says:

    You know what this means?

    Darth-loadable content.

  26. TheTingler says:

    “fun little experiments from random indie chancers”

    Three words: Tiny Death Star.

  27. Mr. International says:

    time to beg them to make Jedi Knight 4

  28. tormos says:

    You know when you see a couple composed of two really ugly people? I’m not talking like “My nose is a little wonky” I’m talking like more facial blemishes than teeth. Anyway, whenever I see a couple of folks like that I think “Oh well, at least they have each other”. Anyway, this is like that but both members of the couple are billionaires.

  29. Werthead says:

    As said above, any developer can make STAR WARS games as long as they are published by EA. Obsidian have even said they’re going to talk to both Disney and EA about their ‘KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC 3′ idea (which actually isn’t KotOR3 in story terms, more in gameplay style).

  30. Turkey says:

    Unless there’s a huge shift in the way big publishers produce games, I think we’re looking at another decade of safe, proven concepts with a Star Wars coat of paint on them. And although i suspect most gamers that don’t go to sites like RPS would mind Gears of War with lightsabers, EA has a long track-record of botching up even safe bets.

    So nobody wins.

  31. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    SWOTOR is tedious? That’s news to me. Hope it ain’t true, I wanted to try playing it some day.

    • bleeters says:

      As your standard Bioware style RPG it’s decent enough for the most part. I really enjoyed most of the class stories and the characters involved.

      The problem is the MMO part, which had a tendancy to saddle the experience with a whole lot of tedium. As something to dip into to play the leveling stories there’s not much wrong with it, but the stuff after that tends to be mostly passable.

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